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SA Jewry, friends, win victory for Israel




Internal ANC wrangling over Israel policy scuppers CT Declaration

In CT Declaration a shambles on 26 Feb and CT Declaration fizzles on 5 March SAJR Online wrote about what seemed to be an evolving ANC “family feud” between the idealistic party members and the party’s more pragmatic Members of Parliament on this issue.

Now, the Cape Town Declaration is dead in the water, says ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley. “This is huge,” she says, “it’s been a great victory for everyone who has been working for common sense to prevail.” The Cape Town Declaration will not be tabled before this or any other Parliament.

What’s more, the deeper one delves into this issue, the more evident it is that the ideological split in the ANC over relations between SA and Israel has been developing for some time.

Israel - dont LONGWhat became known as the “Cape Town Declaration” of 15 stringent anti-Israeli (and some aimed at members of the SA Jewish community) measures was first mooted on 6 February at an unprecedented ‘Solidarity Conference” which took place under the auspices of the Parliamentary International Relations and Cooperation Portfolio Committee.

The ACDP’s Committee-member Sheryllyn Dudley and Party-boss Rev Kenneth Meshoe MP both implied last month that the Conference was an attempt by the ANC as a party to force the hand of the ANC government to act on undertakings the party had made to Palestinian solidarity groups.

The Conference had proposed that the Portfolio Committee put before Parliament prior to its rising a set of 15 harsh anti-Israel recommendations which would have all-but cut all economic ties between the two countries.

Palestinian lobby said to be furious

The Palestinian NGOs are known to be furious that, despite all their efforts, trade between SA and Israel was actually increasing – and quite rapidly too. These were creating good jobs in SA.

Freeman - Michael HOMELast year bilateral trade topped R12-billion and over half of all tourists from the broad Middle East region visiting SA last year came from Israel, according Deputy Israeli Ambassador Michael Freeman (PICTURED LEFT AT MADIBA COMMEMORATION).

So, despite the huge political gains claimed by pro-Palestinian NGOs at the ANC NEC level over the past two years, the government has maintained its intransigence to action these agreements.

Among the MANGAUNG RESOLUTIONS on international relations taken at the December 2012 ANC National Congress is an inconspicuous two-point stand-alone statement that reads: “The ANC is pleased with the successful hosting of the third ANC’s International Solidarity Conference … welcomes the ISC resolutions and therefore commits to set up the ISC’s steering committee responsible for the follow-up and implementation of the ISC resolutions.”
It can be found hiding on page 44 (Chapter 6.39).

Unprecedented ANC “family-feud”

The conference referred to was the ANC’s “Third International Solidarity Conference” of October 2012 which led to the TSHWANE DECLARATION of Recommendations. Several paragraphs of the two-page declaration dealt with the ANC’s policy on Israel/Palestine, including the damning statement that “Conference supports the call of civil society’s BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign.”

Dudley - CheryllynSo, as strange as it may sound, the ANC agreed at Mangaung to implement the policy of a US-based NGO as its own policy towards Israel. This despite the fact that the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, reminded South Africans that the PA did not support BDS calls for sanctions against Israel when he was in SA in December for Madiba’s Memorial Service.

Pro-Palestinian lobbyists may have popped the champagne corks too early though. Winning over the ANC’s NEC at Mangaung, as it turned out, was not about to change government policy. The ACDP’s Cheryllyn Dudley (PICTURED RIGHT) says that this shows “maturity” on the part of the government. “They are actually considering the best interests of the people of SA when balancing their view of their balance with regard to Middle East policy” she said this week.

Pundits believe that it was this frustration at the lack of support by Government against Israel that led to the unprecedented political manoeuvre to try and force measures that would cripple SA/Israel trade relations. But it would have been at SA’s expense, government decided, and so it backfired in the face of the antagonists.

The “Solidarity Conference” was so secretively convened that it resulted in only the ACDP and a lone Christian Zionist speaking against the original declaration.

SA Jewry and the Israeli Embassy were not aware of the Conference. It took a several days before a stunned SA Jewish Board of Deputies could respond with a scathing attack – and two weeks for the DA to investigate how their Portfolio Committee representative had allowed the Cape Town Declaration to be issued unchallenged.

After their investigation, DA spokesman Darren Bergman said their MP, Bill Eloff, had gone rogue! Jewish leaders then met with Helen Zille and government representatives while the DA accused the ANC of trying to “make pawns” of religious and opposition groups.

Ultimately, a massively diluted CT Declaration document was hastily agreed on by the Portfolio Committee on 5 March – with three votes against (two DA and one ACDP), one abstention (IFP) and the seven remaining members in favour.

Ben LevitasCape chair of the SA Zionist Federation, Ben Levitas (PICTURED LEFT), said that IFP Portfolio Committee-member VB Ndlovu had read out a statement that set a very moderate, balanced and measured tone and emphasized that blaming or favouring one side would not be constructive as both sides had suffered. DA representatives Justus De Goede and Gourdan Hill Lewis “played a very supportive role as well,” said Levitas of the defeat of the CT Declaration.

So diluted was this new declaration that the SAJBD’s executive director, Wendy Kahn, said: “I am so reassured with this outcome, we felt that we were heard.” The Jewish community and Israel could live with this. But it hadn’t just happened. It had taken four weeks of hard lobbying and tough politicking to reduce the original declaration to a few mildly annoying points.

CT Declaration now truly dead

Dudley says that the present document that the Portfolio Committee had hoped to table this week now “falls away” and that it would only appear in the Committee’s legacy report to the next Committee of the new Parliament.

Cape Town Declaration dead FULL STORY longWhether the diluted document that the three Israel-friendly parties, IFP, DA and ACDP had hoped would be passed was simply overlooked for more important business in the last week of the current parliament, or whether the NEC members chose to have nothing, rather than this thing, is anyone’s guess.

But it certainly served to confirm the ever-widening chasm within the ANC on the issue. Finally, after the Committee’s resolution wasn’t tabled in the final week of this Parliament – thus rendering the Cape Town Declaration a deceased document – the ideological differences in the ANC becomes all the more evident – a “family feud” as Dudley referred to it last month.

Dudley concedes that there are “a number of people in the ANC who only understand the Palestinian parable,” but that for the most part those in government are not allowing “their hearts to override their heads. Common sense tells them that these kind of mature decisions are in the best interests of Palestinians.”

Dudley was one of the members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on International Affairs and Cooperation that went on a fact-finding trip to the Middle East some months back. She says even some of the members who had been passionately anti-Israel, were unimpressed once on the ground to realise that things in Palestine were clearly not as bad they had been led to believe.

Rhodes Mary Kluk chairperson SAJBD - LONG - CopyThis “maturity is grounding them,” she said of the hard-core anti-IsraeIi MPs on the committee last week. They had realised that a lot of what they had been led to believe, was hugely exaggerated. “Jewish lobby organisations have also learned a lot over the past year,” says Dudley. 

The ANC had been put under a huge amount of with the amount of pressure by Palestinian lobbyists and, without a counter-point from Israel and SA Jewry, MPs had assumed a lot of lobbying to be the truth in the past, she said.

Even Zuma got a bee in his bonnet

The word from pundits in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (who for obvious reasons have asked not to be named) is that Palestinian solidarity organisations had overplayed their hands. They have been knocking at the door of the minister and even President Zuma all the time.

“The pressure they have been under to act (against Israel) has been enormous,” one insider said, and that he had heard that this may, in fact, have led to Zuma getting a bee in his bonnet. “The President chose to change the direction, appoint a top ambassador to Israel and encourage growth in trade,” said the source.

Dudley and her ACDP party have long stood as a lone voice for Israel on government benches. Now, they say, they are delighted to have SA Jewry as lobbyists, and the Israeli Embassy diplomatically, pro-actively acting alongside them.


Israel - Dont

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. David Abel

    Mar 19, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    ‘Wonderful stuff! Multi-faceted, effective, pro-Israel action and lobbying just as it should be!’

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